Beyond the inquiry: families of missing, murdered indigenous women want action
A student at Balmoral Hall created this project using red butterflies to represent all 1,017 missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada.
Chinta Puxley, THE CANADIAN PRESS
Published Tuesday, February 23, 2016 2:28PM CST
WINNIPEG -- Lorelei Williams left the first roundtable on missing and murdered indigenous women in tears after families who had lost loved ones fought to be one of the four people allowed to speak.
The British Columbia woman, whose aunt went missing in 1978 and whose cousin's remains were found on the farm of convicted killer Robert Pickton, felt revictimized by the experience.
As premiers, federal and provincial ministers gather once again Wednesday for the second roundtable in Winnipeg, Williams said she hopes this time will be different. This time, she said, leaders need to listen more carefully to voices like hers and do what they can to address the issue in their own jurisdictions.
"Once they get to know the families and what it does to them, I feel like (they) can fight a better battle," she said. "There is a lot of racism that has flawed cases and that needs to be addressed."
The RCMP has estimated at least 1,200 indigenous women have gone missing or been murdered since 1980. Although indigenous women make up 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population, they account for 16 per cent of female homicides and 11.3 per cent of missing women.
A lot has changed since the last roundtable a year ago when calls for a national inquiry on the issue loomed large. The Conservatives, who steadfastly refused to call an inquiry, lost the fall federal election to the Liberals, who have promised one will convene this year.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is attending the roundtable. She said an inquiry is one way to address violence against indigenous women, but there are other things provinces can do on their own.
Wynne announced Tuesday her government is spending $100 million over the next three years on a long-term anti-violence strategy, most of it to help support indigenous families. She said she hopes the roundtable will result in "concrete actions" including a co-ordinated public awareness campaign.
"I hope that some of the strategies that we're bringing forward will be things that we'll see echoed across the country," she said. "The national inquiry is important. I have supported indigenous communities all along in calling for that national inquiry but it cannot be used as an excuse for not taking action."
Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, who is attending the roundtable, has toured the country hearing from family members regarding what the inquiry should look like. She said she hopes the roundtable will be a chance to get the provinces and territories on board as well.
"We've advanced a lot in terms of what we've heard from family members, suggestions in terms of the framework for the inquiry," Wilson-Raybould said.
"It's going to be a good discussion. I'm looking forward to it."
The roundtable is to set to wrap up on Friday.